A 3-year-old Highland County child has died from the flu in the state’s first pediatric flu-related death of the season, according to Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner.
Warner said Thursday that his office was not releasing the child’s name.
“We want to be respectful of this family and what they’re going through right now,” Warner said. “Our policy is we’re not going to release any additional information about the case, and that’s standard procedure for health departments across the state in a child death.”
While state officials are saying the Highland County Health Department is investigating the death, Warner said the word “investigating” is a misnomer.
“We don’t really investigate in that sense of the word,” he said. “What we do is collect data when there is a reported death from the time of birth until the age of 18, and we try to determine if there was anything that could’ve been done to have made this preventable. Was there a county agency that could have done something, or was there something that we could’ve done in order to change the outcome of this death?”
Warner emphasized there is no ongoing investigation as people would understand the term, saying he prefers instead to call it data collection or conducting an inquiry.
“Whenever we have a disease death, we gather information and collect data,” he said. “That’s how we in the medical field understand investigation. We want to know what happened, why it happened, and how it happened. This is all a part of our disease monitoring process.”
The Highland County Health Department has not had contact with the family and does not plan to, Warner said, adding that everything his office is doing at present is part of its routine process when a death occurs from the various diseases being monitored.
As previously reported, influenza cases typically begin to increase in October and the peak season can last as late as May, with the illness tending to reach its height between December and February.
Warner said nationwide incidences of flu have moved to a higher category by the way the Centers for Disease Control measure how the disease moves across the country, adding that he expects it to remain a threat through May.
He recommended that everyone get immunized against the illness, and the CDC recommends immunizations for everyone 6 months of age and older.
There have been more than 1,800 flu-related hospitalizations reported in Ohio for the current flu season, which is substantially less than what was reported during the same time last year, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
During last year’s flu season, the ODH confirmed there were six children whose deaths were directly related to the flu.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.